Recorded since 1340, from Old French preterit (13th century), from Latin praeteritum (as in tempus praeteritum (“time past”)), the past participle of praetereō (“I go by, go past”), itself from praeter (“beyond, before, above, more than”)
(comparative of prae (“before”)) + itum (the past participle of eō (“I go”)).
preterite (not comparable)
- (grammar, of a tense) showing an action at a determined moment in the past.
1913, Robert Caldwell, J.L. Wyatt and T. Ramakrishna Pillai, editors, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian, or, South-Indian Family of Languages, 3rd edition, London: Kegan Paul, OCLC 486976512, page 496:
- The Dravidian preterite tense is ordinarily formed, like the present, by annexing the pronominal signs to the preterite verbal participle.
- Belonging wholly to the past; passed by.
1890, James Russell Lowell, “Cambridge Thirty Years Ago”, in The Writings of James Russell Lowell, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, OCLC 8260076, page 52:
- Without leaving your elbow-chair, you shall go back with me thirty years, which will bring you among things and persons as thoroughly preterite as Romulus or Numa.
- 1988, Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (page 19)
- Boas, Benedict, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Murdock, Evans-Pritchard, Griaule, Levi-Strauss, to keep the list short, preterite, and variegated, […]
preterite (plural preterites)
- (grammar) The preterite tense, simple past tense: the grammatical tense that determines the specific initiation or termination of an action in the past.
1772, John Mair, A Radical Vocabulary, Latin and English, Edinburgh: A. Murray, and J. Cochran, for A. Kincaid & W. Creech, and J. Bell, OCLC 777992466, page 101:
- When simple verbs redouble the preterite, the compounds drop the first syllable, as: Pello, pĕpŭli, to drive away, to beat back; Repello, rĕpŭli, and not rĕpĕpŭli, to drive back, to repel.
1994, Dieter Stein and Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Towards a Standard English: 1600-1800, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, ISBN 9783110136975, page 115:
- Nevertheless, a small amount of variation still exists in one area of standard English verbal morphology: the preterite and past participle forms of certain irregular verbs.
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